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The Future of Work is all about TRUST

Every leader faces the challenge of building trust and creating a great place to work where their teams can flourish - Don Rapley

Hybrid working is here to stay and we have had to rapidly adapt to the challenges of the pandemic in ways that no one could have predicted. Who would have thought that the slow-moving trend towards working from home could be adopted practically overnight across the globe?

This shift has put enormous pressure on the companies I collaborate with, to adapt to the changing needs of their people and evolve their organisational culture.

The transition has been complex and is still underway - whilst technology has enabled virtual meetings and remote collaboration to become the norm, it has also put a huge strain on teams who often struggle to reconcile work and personal commitments. The boundaries have been blurred, and, as many have pointed out, the realities of “working from home” are often more akin to “living in the office”.

So how have leaders and people managers adapted their leadership style to contend with these new realities? There are no quick fixes, but here are three things you can invest in to future-proof your organisation:

1) Building trust by fostering a culture of listening and curiosity

We all know how difficult it has been to connect and build relationships in a virtual world. Teams are only now starting to meet and collaborate in person again, if they are lucky. Some leaders I’ve worked with, have not seen their teams since 2019; a great shift from the regular meetings and social gatherings across the region that were customary for many.

This means leaders have had to double down on getting to know each and every team member virtually and ensure they nurture that sense of belonging. Employees need to understand the broader mission of the organisation and have a strong sense of purpose, so leaders must create an environment of psychological safety where employees feel they have a voice and be empowered to contribute to the organisation’s goals.

They need to ask more open questions like how are you doing? what are you working on? what’s working well? what is challenging? how can I help?

The onus is on leaders to create opportunities for these conversations to happen, so they can interact with their teams on a deeper level. Not only do they need to be genuinely curious, but they also must be totally present and undistracted, listening more than they talk to gain the trust and respect of their employees (not easy when having a conversation behind your screen).

This is how we build trust in teams and when it’s there, people feel safe, respected, engaged and empowered to do their best work.

It’s not just the Future of Work, it’s the future of leadership.


2) The coaching mindset – Empowering employees to problem solve

Daniel Goleman pioneered the concept of emotional intelligence and suggests that of the Six Leadership Styles, coaching is the one which has the most positive impact on performance, culture and the bottom line. Surprisingly, it is still the leadership style we rarely observe. Why? Because it is a multi-layered, complex ‘practice’ (much like weight training, cycling or mediation!) which requires serious, long-term commitment.

Michael Bungay Stanier, author of “The Coaching Habit”, one of the best books ever written on the topic, describes how the magic of leadership can be found in daily conversations. Based on a few very powerful open questions, these conversations leave space for people to think for themselves – they are empowered to innovate and problem solve, rather than simply implementing pre-defined solutions. 

Developing coaching skills, especially in remote conversations, has always been a  fundamental building block of our TYC Leadership Conversation programmes. We know how transformational these coaching conversations are – these have become all the more critical in the post pandemic era.

The coaching mindset is a belief that everyone has ideas that matter, but leaders need to take a step back and enable their teams to do the searching.

It’s always a challenging to get leaders to recognise they might not have all the answers and that sometimes, giving advice (the default teacher/ parent mode), is not helping their team members to grow!

Coaching enhances self-confidence and leads individuals to achieve greater professional success – in turn, this upward spiral has a hugely positive impact on engagement and trust within teams.

The leaders of the future provide their people with opportunities to find their own way and grow, in a safe, supportive, and encouraging environment which allows for experimentation and innovation.  

3) Adapting face to face norms in the virtual world

I recently coached teams from an MNC, on the complexities of managing time and priorities across time zones and cultures. I heard the familiar tales of exhausting- and at times pointless - back-to-back virtual meetings lasting all day and well into the night.  

While some organisations have found effective ways to address this, many seem to have be stuck in a vicious cycle, which ultimately impacts their teams’ emotional and physical resilience.

By forcing themselves to ask three simple questions of the organiser of every one of their meetings, the teams I worked with transformed their working culture:

  • what is the meeting objective and desired outcome? (it’s surprising how seldom this can be answered!)
  • what are the discussion points (never go into a meeting without an agenda)
  • based on these two points, do I need to be there (what value can I add, do I need to be there for the whole meeting?)

Not only were the number of meetings people attended greatly reduced, but the team radically improved their meeting discipline by ‘starting with the end in mind’ and setting out clear outcomes for each virtual interaction.

No single person can influence this alone, but when there is a sense of purpose and alignment from leaders and their teams to change, it will happen.

The Future of Work has not been written yet, but building trust, empowering people to experiment and problem solve, and leading by is a great place to start.

About the author:

Don is an experienced business leader who has worked for over 40 years as a senior leader, executive coach and leadership development specialist.

He has a broad perspective of business challenges in international environments, having worked in 6 continents and 30 countries across Asia, Europe, the Americas, Middle East, Africa and Australasia.

Don comes from a British/Dutch family and has dual French nationality. He has lived in the UK, France, Belgium and in Singapore since starting his business here in 2013.

About the company:

TYC Transform Your Conversations is a boutique training company based in Singapore which develops leaders to transform their conversations and drive business performance. 

Through their Leadership Conversation and other programmes, TYC delivers in-person and virtual training and coaching to help leaders and their teams to have more inspiring and engaging conversations, improve their collaboration and energise their daily interactions.


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